The balance between exploiting known actions and exploring alternatives is critical for survival and hypothesized to rely on shifts in neuromodulation. We developed a behavioral paradigm to capture exploitative and exploratory states and imaged calcium dynamics in genetically identified dopaminergic and noradrenergic neurons. During exploitative states, characterized by motivated repetition of the same action choice, dopamine neurons in SNc encoding movement vigor showed sustained elevation of basal activity that lasted many seconds. This sustained activity emerged from longer positive responses, which accumulated during exploitative action-reward bouts, and hysteretic dynamics. Conversely, noradrenergic neurons in LC showed sustained inhibition of basal activity due to the accumulation of longer negative responses in LC. Chemogenetic manipulation of these sustained dynamics revealed that dopaminergic activity mediates action drive, whereas noradrenergic activity modulates choice diversity. These data uncover the emergence of sustained neural states in dopaminergic and noradrenergic networks that mediate dissociable aspects of exploitative bouts.